Atheist Christopher Hitchens Writes Love Letter to the King James Bible

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Christopher Hitchens has made no secret of his disdain for religion. The central argument of his 2007 book God Is Not Great was: "Religion poisons everything."

Nevertheless, in the May issue of Vanity Fair, Hitchens concedes that religion has made at least one positive contribution to society: The King James Bible. He says the language and imagery in this translation of the Bible is unrivaled by any other work of literature, except for maybe Shakespeare:

A culture that does not possess this common store of image and allegory will be a perilously thin one. To seek restlessly to update it or make it "relevant" is to miss the point, like yearning for a hip-hop Shakespeare. "Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward," says the Book of Job. Want to try to improve that for Twitter? And so bleak and spare and fatalistic—almost non-religious—are the closing verses of Ecclesiastes that they were read at the Church of England funeral service the unbeliever George Orwell had requested in his will: "Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home. ... Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. / Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was."

Read the full story at Vanity Fair.

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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